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The question: I wear high heels every day at work, and lately my feet and back have been killing me. Are there good exercises that will help me wear them better?

The answer: Unfortunately, the discomfort your shoes are causing is not surprising. High heels are hard on the body! Don't get me wrong. I understand their appeal; I always feel more confident in them.

They are, however, hard on the body because they pitch the body forward. This causes your body to compensate to stay upright, typically by increasing the arch in the lower back and tilting the pelvis anteriorly, or toward your front. Both can cause pain in the back and hips. In addition, the calves and feet become sore from being pointed all day.

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Ideally, find nice low heels or flats. I appreciate that this advice is not realistic for everyone. If you can't (or don't want to) give up your heels, do the below stretches daily:

  • 1. Standing calf stretch: Place the ball of your right foot on the edge of a stair. Keep your right leg straight and let your heel fall backward off of the step. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the left foot.
  • 2. Hip-flexor stretch: Step backward with your right leg, both toes facing forward. Bend both knees and tuck your pelvis so your hip bones move toward your ribs. Feel a stretch in the top of the right thigh and hip. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the left leg.
  • 3. Posterior tucks: Lie on your back, legs bent and feet on floor. Tuck your pelvis so your hip bones curl toward your ribs. Feel your lower back gently move towards the mat. Don’t force your back down; instead do a kegel to engage your pelvic floor, and also engage the muscles between your pubic bone and belly button to initiate the tucking motion. Try to imagine you are putting on a tight pair of jeans.
  • 4. Toe spreading: Spread your toes five to 10 times. Try to make each toe spread evenly.

Trainer's tip: At home, to strengthen your feet and aid circulation, walk around in bare feet. Also, try placing a golf ball under the arch of the foot. Use your weight to push down on the ball and massage tight spots in the foot.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

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